Are you excited?

Yesterday at church, just before Sunday service began, my lead pastor came up to me and said, “So I heard the good news! Are you guys excited?”

And I stared up at him with startled eyes, shaken awake from my mental menagerie, and did not produce the typical enthusiastic response that most soon-to-be parents give. “Oh! Uh, yes,” I answered, my voice heavy with hesitation, “I think I’m getting there.”

My pastor looked taken aback, and concern wiggled across his brow: “Oh, is this something you want me to pray for you about?”

Oh shoot, I thought. I’m giving off the impression that I don’t want this baby. I told him no, clarifying that I am excited, but there’s also been a lot to process all at once.

My pastor nodded. “Yes, I expect given that this pregnancy was unplanned, things can feel so disorienting.”

Disorienting. That’s the word. “Disoriented” is how I would sum up everything I’ve been feeling in the last four weeks since I found out I was pregnant and had to pee on a pregnancy stick three times to confirm that 1) Yes, there’s a baby inside me, not undigested tacos, and 2) Yes, I actually do want a baby.

When my pastor asked me if I’m excited, I was sitting alone at the pews after our morning pre-service prayer meeting, silent in my thoughts. I was not so much thinking as half-hearing the white noise of my subconsciousness. Those noises were loud, but in the background, and my mind felt numb and dumb in a mute daze. I was also uncaffeinated and tired, and almost fell asleep on the wheel while driving to church, so I was already sitting in a mental fog when jolted awake by a simple, predictable question from my pastor: Are you excited?

I am a too-honest person, unable to fake a response that I don’t truly feel, even if I don’t know how I really feel. I don’t know why I couldn’t have just responded to my pastor’s question with a big grin and a happy “YES!” Because yes, I am excited to bring a new precious life into this world. I am excited to meet this baby. But I’m not so excited to be a mother yet. Does that make sense? Disorienting, indeed.

I start a new job tomorrow. When I signed the job offer in January, I still had no idea I was already in second trimester by then. I took that job because after prayers and discussions with my husband, it felt clear that God opened that door for me. The job fit all the things I love to do: International travel. Meeting and getting to know people on a deeper level. In-depth, long-form feature writing. Highlighting inspirational, challenging stories of ordinary Christians who are living out the practical, powerful implications of the Gospel. I also really liked my future colleagues, and got a good vibe from the staff there. Plus: I was offered a significant salary bump, and the health insurance benefits were way better. “This job is a no-brainer,” David kept telling me.

So I signed that offer. I am to start on March 1, and I had been following the news in Ukraine, thinking it might make sense to do my first big travel story there, perhaps following some local Ukrainian Christians while tension between Ukraine and Russia simmers, to give it an extra newsy factor (this was before Putin did his monstrous thing). I even looked up Ukrainian cuisine. The world was flung wide open to me, and this job would be my magic carpet. I couldn’t wait.

Now I am disoriented. I had planned to continue working on a book for the rest of February, to maybe even draft a book proposal by the end of the month. But this month of February blew past like a gust of autumn wind, blowing my plans into swirls of dried dead leaves. I have not added or edited a single sentence in my book. I still haven’t finished reading the stack of books I had bought. Instead, I’ve spent countless hours watching YouTube videos on pregnancy stages, researching what newborn baby products I need, convincing David not to name our child after his favorite Dodgers player, and scaring the crap out of myself by reading up on perineal tears and cracked nipples and diastasis recti and stillborn babies and sudden infant death syndrome. I can’t say much of those hours were productive.

Overnight, my world has changed. Plans disintegrated. The future blurred. I don’t know what to expect for my upcoming job– how am I going to travel? Can I travel? When is too soon? What if my performance sucks, and my editors regret ever hiring me? Hiring a nanny would cost me my entire paycheck, and more. What if I need to decrease my work hours, and– horrors– quit my job?

On a recent phone call, abba mentioned the unmentionable: “You need to prioritize this child,” he said. “You might even want to consider quitting your job.” And then of course he said he’s praying for me to be able to handle that.

I wanted to scream. Of course I’m going to prioritize the child. But that added layer of “I’m praying for you”– that unspoken, unintended spiritual overhang of “this is what God wants you to do” and “this is Biblical” and “if you don’t do this, God will be displeased”– felt like a pillory around my neck.

I remember all the disdainful, disgusted condemnations many Christians heap on modern-day feminists and career women, for supposedly abandoning the family’s well-being to pursue their own ambitions and desires. A woman I had just met, who is also pregnant, told me how she used to be so selfish and worldly as a single woman until she reformed her relationship with Jesus, and realized she wants to be a wife and mother. She hopes to quit her job when her baby is born and homeschool her kids.

I understood what she’s saying. Because part of the world has so dehumanized babies and degraded child-bearing and raising children, I understood why many Christians push back so fiercely against that ungodly rhetoric and culture. But part of me also thought, “But you’re also beautiful and young and educated and privileged, so you had no problem getting married and pregnant.” Because I had been single for 29 years before I met David, because I’d so often played that third wheel, that sole person sitting alone in the church pews without a partner, I never lost the bitter taste of feeling “less than” and overlooked as a single, childless woman, constantly being downgraded in her friends’ list of priorities as they got hitched, bore babies, and hung out with other mommy friends.

Now that I’m on the other side, married and with child, I feel torn. I had spent so long building my identity as a journalist. I knew I wanted to be a journalist since I was in high school, and because of my years-long struggle with anorexia, I had taken a long detour to finally make it here. I still remember when I was a 52-lb, college dropout skeleton walking outside shivering in 70-degree weather, waiting for death. Whenever a plane flew above me, I looked up into the sky for a long time, my heart longing to be on that plane, traveling as a journalist, the longing so deep and great that I felt like my heart muscles physically ached. I cried so many tears thinking I might never be able to be that person.

The delay made me treasure my job even more, and I genuinely enjoy and love everything about journalism– the writing, the constant learning, the challenges and the stress, the adventures and insights and sense of purpose. It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and that made me feel secure and stable. Being a journalist is not just pure ambition– I haven’t achieved fame or wealth or power– but to me, a sense of being. It is who I am. And I think, at some point, that love for journalism twisted so much into my own identity, my sense of purpose and meaning, that it became suffocating. I knew my self-identity was off-kilter in an unhealthy way when I resigned from my last job and felt as though I had lost myself, lost my self-confidence, self-assurance, and self-respect.

I wish some quick-to-condemn Christians would understand that it’s not as simple as “Give up your selfishness” for some of us. Or to label us as being brainwashed by modern secular culture. If the perceived problem is so overly simple, the solutions offered are also simplistic and irrelevant and unhelpful. My identity struggles are not new, and in fact in the scope of history it’s quite trite and stale, but it’s still complicated in how it’s personalized to my upbringing, experience, my personality and relationship with God.

At the root of this disorientation is fear. I am not a maternal person– not in the least. I’m not even a good cat owner. Lots of people are instinctively drawn to newborn babies. Their hands naturally reach out to touch and smell them, to the annoyance and alarm of first-time parents. Me? I instinctively draw away. Last Sunday at church, two little girls tugged at my sleeve and asked to play hide-and-seek, and I looked at them as though they were asking me to sing the national anthem of Uzbekistan. I don’t even know how to play with my own young nieces, whom I adore, but also flummox me. When people coo and talk baby speech to little kids, I cringe. I don’t look at pictures of babies and sigh, “awww.” You see, I am a cold rock, a Grinch with a heart two sizes too small.

How in the world am I going to be a mother? Will that so-called maternal instinct just naturally kick in? Will I know how to play with my own baby? Will I– shudder!– start speaking in that high-pitched squeaky baby cooing voice? Will my heart just automatically start melting when I see other baby pictures? And if I change into that person, who am I???

This is my brutally honest and ugly self. I am trying to untangle these fears and raw emotions before God, one by one, and I don’t think I’ll process them all before the baby arrives (“Unless he’s stillborn or you have a late-term miscarriage, anything can happen,” the internet whispers cruelly at me. The internet is the WORST!).

In fact, I foresee more disorientation awaiting me once there’s an actual breathing, bawling, burping tiny human lying beside me, demanding all my attention and love and energy, forcing me to shed things I’m not ready to shed, pushing me to give more than I’m ready to give, rewiring my identity before I even figure out who I am, all in supercharged real time. And at my wit’s end, when I’m sucked brittle and dry, I might not even care, but surrender with little fight left.

You know, maybe a baby is what I need most after all. God, you wily wise person, you.

To gain amidst loss

David has been having a lot of dreams lately– vivid dreams of his mother, from which he wakes up with tear spots on his pillow.

That’s unusual for him. This guy passes out like a baby every night, not just in bed, but on the couch, in the car, on the plane, during dinner parties (embarrassingly), in the movie theaters, literally anywhere when his brain slowly shuts off and floats into the zzzzzs. If he dreams, he doesn’t even remember that he did.

But he remembers the emotions in these dreams of his mother, even if he does not remember the specifics. All of these dreams are colorful, nostalgic, and sweet. In all of them, his mother is happy, and he is happy. He wakes up happy, sad, heavy, and at peace all at once.

“I can’t even begin to explain the different conflicting emotions I’ve been feeling,” he said to me last night during our walk after dinner. “It’s just constant, waves and waves.”

I reached for his hand. “Can you try describing them?” I asked.

“I get sad, then happy, then angry,” David said. “I’m sad my mom isn’t here. I’m happy because we’re having a baby. Then I’m angry that my kid won’t grow up knowing my mom. My mom really, really wanted to be involved in her grandchildren’s life. And I always thought if we ever had kids, I wanted that for her. It just sucks.”

“Growing up with the love of grandparents is such a blessing,” I said, quietly mourning a new loss. As a missionary’s kid who visited South Korea during winter break maybe once every three years, I never grew up knowing and receiving my grandparents’ love and doting. Each time I visited them in their little apartments in Jeonju, it was like meeting strangers again. I did not know or understand them, and they did not know nor understand me. I felt awkward in their house, like a guest rather than a granddaughter, and sometimes I felt like an intruder, shuffling about their presence, hoping to make myself less burdensome and visible. When my grandparents on both sides died, I was sad, but I was more sad that my parents were so sad. I didn’t feel the sharp pang of grief, because there really was no genuine loss. My grandparents’ footprints on my life were light, grainy, easily washed away like sand under ocean waves.

So I loved watching David’s parents cheer for their grandson at all his baseball games, bake cakes with their granddaughter, celebrate their birthdays with the indulgence that only grandparents can give. And I loved watching my own parents go ga-ga over my two nieces, loved watching them replay, over and over with goofy grins, video clips of their granddaughters playing and potty-training and singing. I’ve never seen them look so silly. That was a novel delight for me. It’s a joy not just for the grandparents, but also for the parents, to gift their parents a fresh shower of joy and delight through their own seed.

Bearing this child in my belly has been bittersweet– more bitter for David, of course, who still hasn’t recovered from his shock that a truck had hit and killed his mother just six months ago. When we found out the due date of the baby (June 5), we did some quick calculations, and found out that this baby was conceived right before the week David’s mother died. I remember when we realized that, we just stared at each other in amazement and awe. And like David, I felt all those conflicting emotions– joy, gratefulness, and comfort, but also sadness, regret, and an ache for what was not to be.

I don’t believe God had to “take away” David’s mother in order to give us a baby. It was never an exchange of a life for a life. Death is never, was never, part of God’s plan for His world. Death is and will always be painful, unnatural, and sour-smelling, tov (“good and whole” in Hebrew) gone rancid and fractured. But I do believe the timing isn’t coincidental. I believe God is a redemptive God. He redeems evil for good, judgment for grace, suffering for comfort, loss for gain. And in His wisdom and omniscience and compassion, He allowed the timing to match just right so that even in and through the pain and loss, we can enjoy the comfort and joy of life. This is our God: He redeems.

That night, as we walked in pondering silence, each turning our own thoughts before God, I asked David why he thinks he’s been having all these vivid dreams of his mother now.

He thought about it for a few seconds. “I think God is trying to tell me that my mom is OK. That she’s happy. That she’s with Him.”

The tears that flow during those dreams are sad, but also in its own way a release, a relief. David didn’t really have a closure with his mother. He woke up one Saturday morning planning to call his mother after lunchtime, and at 10 am received that fateful phone call from his father bawling and bawling and unable to speak. I will never forget hearing David screaming in the bathroom, “WHAT? WHAT?!” And he dashed over to me, and mouthed, with wide, frightened eyes, “My mom died!” I bolted upright. I could hear the loud, animal-like sobs of David’s father from David’s phone. It felt like a dream. Nothing felt real.

The next several months didn’t feel real. David’s mother was pronounced dead while we were mid-air on our way to Bismarck. He didn’t go see her body in the hospital, couldn’t bear to, so I went in his stead, and seeing her lifeless in the hospital bed, with bloated eyelids and sinking lips, kept artificially alive through tubes for her organs, I was glad David wasn’t there to absorb this last image of his mother. But that also meant he never got to say a proper goodbye.

From the moment we got that call, David was swept into a whirlwind of tears: He was crying throughout the flight, crying when his brother came to pick us up at the airport, crying when his father met us at the door of a suddenly barren house, crying all night in his sleep while we listened to his father wail like a broken dog in the other room. And the next few weeks, he continued being swept into a torrent of events: funerals, memorials, family visits, friend visits, dealing with Covid, supporting me through a job resignation, watching his father fall apart, crawling back into a hectic work schedule, first holidays without his mother, and now, a surprise baby.

So here we are. Still processing the fact that we are going to be parents, while David is still processing a grief too raw and tender to touch. And his mother visits him in dreams, to let him know she’s with God, that she’s OK, that she’s happy, that she wants his heart to have that closure of a peace beyond understanding.

A life passed away, a new life forming. It’s interesting how much life there is in death. With one death, so many lives gathered together in memorial of that passed life, so many lives shaken and tossed, and at least in David’s case, so much reflection and appreciation and desire for life. And standing in the middle of the dust that’s still barely settling from one of the greatest tragedies in his life, he now touches my belly, and feels a new life kicking, squirming, hiccupping, preparing to enter into this world of dust and earthquakes and tornadoes from which we cannot shield this child.

Oh, the paradox. What sweet, bitter paradox. But knowing our God, I think the sweetness will overpower the bitterness.

We’re going to be abba and omma!

The day I told David we’re having a baby, I waited till evening time, right before dinner, when David was done with work for the day. I felt like I had an itch all day, watching the clock tick till dinner time, my mind constantly wandering to the three positive pregnancy sticks hidden in my bathroom drawer.

Later, I tore out a page from my notebook and drew a little doodle of David and me holding a little baby with the words “We’re going to be abba and omma!” Then I folded that piece of drawing into a little envelope, and wrapped it around the three pregnancy sticks. I placed that into a kraft box that once held my 2022 planner (ironic, now that I think of it). And then I waited.

I made air-fried Brussels sprouts, sweet-glazed salmon, and mashed potatoes with gravy for dinner. At around 6 pm David stomped up the stairs, complaining about how tired and busy he is, per usual. Heh heh heh, I thought, knowing that soon he’ll be busier and more tired than ever. He then complained that we’re having salmon for dinner, and I told him to shut up and eat what’s placed before him. Practicing being a stern mom, you know. And then I slid out that Kraft box and placed it next to his dinner plate.

“Ooh, what’s this?” David asked.

“I got a little something for you,” I told him. “Open it!” I sat next to him as he opened the box.

He thought it was a present from Mexico City, so he got confused when he saw the folded paper, rattling with something plastic inside it. He opened the “envelope,” and froze when he saw the white pregnancy sticks with the pink lines. He stared at it for a few seconds, not understanding. Then he very slowly opened the folded piece of paper and read it. He whipped his head to me in shock: “WHAT?” He thought it was a joke, because we had joked about me being pregnant before.

I giggled at his shock. “Yeah, I’m pregnant!”

He stared at me, speechless.

“Seriously, it’s not a joke. I’m really pregnant. And I think I’m pretty far along, maybe 16 weeks.” I pressed my overalls to my belly: “See?”

He touched the little bump on my lower abdomen, and his eyes widened. “Wow,” he breathed. And then he looked up at me, his eyes shining, his mouth dropping and stretching into a shocked, amazed grin. I wish I had captured that expression on camera, but I’m also glad that private, unforgettable moment is ours to share alone. He looked like a child himself, full of wonder and awe of this world, of life. Then he asked, “How do you feel?”

Tears welled in my eyes and I felt like I was burning up in a flame of confusing emotions. “I don’t know,” I said. “How do you feel?”

“I’m excited!” David said. “And also in shock.” He flapped his hands. “I just need time to process this. This is a lot!” He turned down to his dinner, which was getting cold. “Well!” he exclaimed, “Our lives are going to change!” He continued sitting in a daze, then said, “I don’t think I can eat dinner anymore!”

He did. He finished every bite of the salmon he complained about, but he ate without tasting, mechanically shoving food in his mouth while his mind tumbled into a completely new world– our world. Our world with a child. Can we imagine? No, we can’t. We don’t even know how to begin.

We decided to call my parents that night. But when I asked him if he wanted to call his dad that night as well, David’s face turned red. “I don’t…I don’t…” he stammered, words failing to describe the pain of a sudden realization that he would never, ever be able to call his mother to tell her the good news. Every muscle in his face scrunched into grief as he tried to hold back his tears, and I cried again watching him weep, watching him thinking of his mother, missing her, longing for her.

“I know,” I said quietly, and wrapped my hand around his clenched, shaking fist.

We sat in the hush of so much unspoken, inexpressible emotions and thoughts that didn’t need to be uttered, because we thought and felt them together.

And then, inevitably, we talked logistics. All the unromantic, boring, mundane worries about health insurance (I’m in between jobs, I don’t start work until March 1, when does my health coverage kick in? How much is prenatal care out of pocket?), where to put the nursery, what to do about childcare once the baby is born, what’s the next step, how do we know the baby is healthy?

Oh life. Oh humanity. Every great joy and celebration, weighted down into the mud of this world’s dreary realities.

We finished dinner and went for a walk. I called my parents on speaker, and though it was past 10 pm their time, they picked up almost immediately. “We miss you David!” abba boomed from the dinner table: “We always think about you!”

“Thank you,” David said, and we nudged each other, mouthing, You tell them. No, you tell them! I decided David should break the news. “So…” he began. “We have something to tell you.”

My parents went quiet, though I could still hear abba chewing his late dinner.

David started telling the story of how when I was at Mexico City, a guy at the gym approached me and asked, “You’re pregnant, right?” But he didn’t get any further in his story, because the moment my parents heard the word “pregnant,” they flipped out.

“Aaaaah? PREGNANT?” omma interrupted.

“Eeeeeh? PREGNANT?” abba yelled in the background.

So they didn’t get to hear the whole story of how the guy at the gym made me suspect I was pregnant, as the word “pregnant” clanged and dinged and buzzed and donged in their brains.

I jumped in to explain in Korean, as briefly as I could, that I had just taken the pregnancy test the night before, and abba, still in his stupefied daze, heard the words “positive” and “test” and screeched, “Eeeeeh? You have COVID?”

David looked at me, mirth dancing in his eyes, and voiced exactly what I was thinking, “Where in the world did you get COVID from that?”

I barked at abba to pay attention and dig his ears, because he’s clearly not listening properly, while omma laughed and shushed abba to keep quiet for a second.

They were overjoyed, of course. “I’ve been praying for this every single day!” omma cried, to which I felt a pinch of annoyance. I always get triggered when my parents tell me they’re praying something for me, because often it feels more like a pressure to conform to their wishes rather than a blessing. And then omma proceeded to compare me to Sarah in the Bible: “You know, you’re just like Sarah! She was a dried-up old prune, but when God decides to open up the womb, lo and behold, nothing can stop Him!” Thanks, omma.

Abba told us in his broken English, “Don’t think you are parents-to-be. You’re not mother-to-be, or father-to-be. You already parents. You already mom and dad.”

That was hard to imagine. I mean, I had only just discovered I’m pregnant less than 24 hours before, and David had found out about an hour before. It was hard to wrap our mind around the fact that we had created a little kid we’ve not yet met before, this tiny growing thing inside my womb, who had been so patiently waiting for us to acknowledge its existence. We didn’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl, how far it’s along, when it’s due. We don’t have a name for it, we don’t know if it’ll look more like David or me, if it’ll like kimchi or tacos, if it’ll have my brains or David’s heart. It is a blank canvas, and someone else is the painter, gradually adding in hues of color and blobs of shapes, and we can only wait and see, wait and hope, wait and pray.

What helplessness, to be parents. How do you prepare for it? You can’t. It just happens, and you just let it happen, I suppose. And take it one step at a time, letting the seasons wane and shift in their own timing, realizing more and more that you have little control, and learning to accept that, to walk alongside that.

We did not prepare for this baby, could not prepare for it. But we’re already parents. We are abba and omma! And so we make room for imagination to grow, for out-of-control situations to happen, to expect the unexpected– perhaps for the rest of our life. And if there’s any way I can prepare for this baby, it’s to get excited for that.

A fool for a mother

Well, shocking things happen. And one of the biggest shock of my life is…I’m pregnant.

To be precise, I’m 25 weeks and one day along as of today, and I only just found out three weeks ago, on February 1. As omma said to me, after her initial scream of shock and delight, “Well! I’m shocked you’re pregnant, but I’m not shocked that of all people who won’t discover they’re pregnant until month 6, it’ll be you. This is just another Sophia thing.”

A “Sophia thing” is me, once again, having to eat my words. From when I was as young as 10 years old, I had loudly and proudly proclaimed that I never want to get married. Of course, not having babies went along with my rejection of marriage, and it was all part of that whole package. I wholeheartedly embraced my self-identity as an independent, free, unshackled woman, while also acknowledging that I would probably be a terrible wife and mother. And I kept my word for two decades.

But then I got married. When I told abba I’m dating David (I was 29 at the time), he kept pinching himself: “Is this real? Am I dreaming? My daughter has a boyfriend?” My brother took pains to remind everyone at our virtual wedding (darn you to sheol, Covid) that he had never expected his older sister to get hitched, because didn’t she swear up and down the river that she’s going to die happily single?

Even as a married woman, during inevitable discussions with friends and family about having kids, I once again, with my loud and proud mouth, declared I don’t want kids. “It’s not that I reject having kids,” I told my parents one night, after they once again reminded me that they’re praying for grandchildren, “I just have little desire. If it happens, it happens. If not, I’m totally fine. Stop trying to dictate my life with your prayers. I never asked for them.” What I didn’t tell them, since it’s none of their business, is that David and I never used contraceptives, and though we weren’t trying, we weren’t…not trying.

If it happens, it happens. If not, it doesn’t. No biggie. That was my philosophy that I repeated over and over to myself and others. As we approached our second-year anniversary, we began discussing what to do when I turn 40 and am still not pregnant. Will David be OK completely giving up all hopes of having children? I checked again and again with David that he would be OK, that it would not hurt him or our marriage should I be infertile. As for me, I thought I’ll be fine, maybe even a bit relieved, to not have children. We made plans to spend a year living abroad should we be childless. Maybe London. Or Tokyo. Or Bangkok. We made long-term plans to travel to South Korea, Southeast Asia, East Europe. There was no room for little Davids or Sophias in our imagination for our future together– or rather, there was no capability to imagine such a possibility. The idea of bearing our child seemed fantastical to me, impossible to imagine without a hurried dismissal.

You see, I did not think I could or would get pregnant. I struggled with anorexia from age 16 to about age 23. Being hospitalized twice, dropping to my lowest weight at 52 lbs and hovering around 60 lbs for about three years, meant my body and development took a thrashing, and that included my menstrual cycle. I did not have a period for more than nine years. And even after I got it back, kind of, with the help of birth control pills prescribed by an ob/gyn, I was never regular. I would sometimes go several months without a period– and even then, the flow, manipulated through hormone pills, wasn’t normal. An abnormal cycle, an abnormal body, was more normal to me. I warned David before we got married that we might have difficulties conceiving. “Don’t worry, I have really strong sperms,” he bragged, with all the aplomb of a male ego. I rolled my eyes and told him to be serious. No, seriously: Will he be OK without children? David sobered up and thought about it for a moment. “I’ll be bummed,” he said finally, “But I’ll be OK. Lots of married couples don’t have children. We’ll get through it.”

Meanwhile, as one by one my friends’ bellies swelled, and they disappeared from my social calendar the moment their babies were born, as every parent with young children complained about the cost and sacrifices of parenthood, my conviction that I don’t want kids solidified and hardened like wet cement under the dry LA sun. I barely have enough time to read as it is. If I had a little one running and screeching around the house, when would I ever find time to read in peace? When would I have time to travel any time I want, wherever I want? Is parenthood really worth sacrificing the things that I value so much? Not likely, I told myself.

I was proud, oh so proud. But I was also scared. I feared disappointment, and the bitterness and resentment that inevitably clings to disappointment like barnacles. Better not to hope, not to expect, not to desire. Just as it took me a long, long time to finally express my desire for a spouse to God, to even write those shameful (to me) words in my journal, I didn’t dare voice any desire for children to God. If it happens, it happens. But that mentality wasn’t anchored on trust and submission to God. It was chained to fear and pride. It was not as free-minded as it sounds. It was a form of control, of twisting my thoughts and feelings to fit an expected outcome.

I know that now. And as much as I’m in shock that I did conceive, and I’m already in the last stages of second trimester, I’m even more shocked that…I want this baby. I’ve wanted this baby.

When I took the pregnancy test at 11 pm on February 1, after David had gone to bed, and saw the two pink lines appear on the white stick– I felt like I was in a dream. Wait– is this real? No way in hell. What? WHAT?! It just didn’t feel real, and my mind couldn’t compute those two pink lines indicating that I’m pregnant. I was so shocked and stupefied that I couldn’t even make a sound, not even a little gasp or a strangled scream. I just stared at the stick in silence, while my mind imploded in slow-motion.

Just to be extra-sure– after all, there have been cases of false positive tests– I took another pregnancy test. Five seconds later: Two pink lines.

Oh man, oh dear, oh sweet God Holy Spirit Jesus Christ, oh Lord, HOW? By then the reality slowly sunk into my consciousness, but my emotions were still delayed, paralyzed by shock. I was numb, frozen.

I took a third pregnancy test, since you can never be too certain. This one for some reason took a longer time to show results, and one of the pink lines was fainter than the other, but it was unmistakably two lines. Well, statistically, three false positives seemed very unlikely.

Wow. WOW. I am pregnant. We’re having a baby!

And I realized something surprising after this third test: As I waited for the lines to show, I was holding my breath, hoping, hoping, hoping it is positive. I didn’t even recognize that hope at first, so immunized was I to my own secret desires. But by the time I clutched the three positive tests in my hand, I felt a wave of relief and wonder and gladness break through and gush out from the dam that I had erected for so long.

That night, I dreamed of different scenarios of telling David the news. In each scene I was nervous, but excited. And in the final one, I broke down and wept so hard that I jostled awake to find myself gasping from choked sobs onto my wet pillow. I felt so many emotions in the dream that I had reined in under a tight leash in real life– wonder, awe, fear, thrill, and most of all, joy.

I had not known. I honestly had not known I desired a child. But God knew. And for whatever reason, He opened my womb and answered that desire with a yes. One of the first words I muttered, when speech found me again, was: “Why, Lord?” Why me? I am the most undeserving mother of all. I know friends who struggled with infertility and miscarriage after miscarriage. A friend had just lost her unborn baby to a miscarriage on Christmas Eve night. She spent Christmas bleeding and cramping and crawling. Two close friends had two consecutive miscarriages, and I saw the pain and loss that they too suffered. Another friend just turned 40, and she’s still single and childless, and mourns each passing day. These living stories around me shamed me. I, the proud loud idiot, loudly and proudly rejecting marriage and children, received both on a golden platter. This is a privilege, a blessing that I had not asked for nor expected, and did not deserve.

My next three words: “Oh, poor baby.” This tiny unborn baby, growing and kicking inside a clueless mother who, even while it was developing a beating heart and 10 toes and ears, had to listen to her plan a life without children. I beat my foolish mouth, over and over again. “By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,” Scripture says, and I resolved to never again utter such foolish things before God and others, for I had been unknowingly exposing all my shame and foolishness to the world. Yet instead of a rod, God gave me a surprise, wonderful, beautiful gift: A life. A precious, living, breathing, new life formed by God’s breath and spirit. My baby has a fool for a mother, but God protected this child, and opened my eyes to my foolishness– not with punishment, but with gentle yet firm grace. What a Gospel.

Oh God, how sweet, how undeserving is your grace and mercy. How amused you must be at my foolish words and ways, watching me cling to my own plans when you know you have greater plans for me. How patient you are with my persistent, concrete-hard pride and stubbornness, how gentle you are in breaking me down and molding me. Your hands are strong and steadfast, loving and skillful, sweet and intimate. I yield to you, undone and remade.